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J Biomech. 2012 Aug 9;45(12):2133-41. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2012.05.034. Epub 2012 Jul 5.

Contribution of elastin and collagen to the inflation response of the pig thoracic aorta: assessing elastin's role in mechanical homeostasis.

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Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 1Z4.


This study was undertaken to understand elastin's role in the mechanical homeostasis of the arterial wall. The mechanical properties of elastin vary along the aorta, and we hypothesized this maintained a uniform mechanical environment for the elastin, despite regional variation in loading. Elastin's physiological loading was determined by comparing the inflation response of intact and autoclave purified elastin aortas from the proximal and distal thoracic aorta. Elastin's stretch and stress depend on collagen recruitment. Collagen recruitment started in the proximal aorta at systolic pressures (13.3 to 14.6 kPa) and in the distal at sub-diastolic pressures (9.3 to 10.6 kPa). In the proximal aorta collagen did not contribute significantly to the stress or stiffness, indicating that elastin determined the vessel properties. In the distal aorta, the circumferential incremental modulus was 70% higher than in the proximal aorta, half of which (37%) was due to a stiffening of the elastin. Compared to the elastin tissue in the proximal aorta, the distal elastin suffered higher physiological circumferential stretch (29%, P=0.03), circumferential stress (39%, P=0.02), and circumferential stiffness (37%, P=0.006). Elastin's physiological axial stresses were also higher (67%, P=0.003). These findings do not support the hypothesis that the loading on elastin is constant along the aorta as we expected from homeostasis.

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